Oh, how much heaviness there is in that word: come. Grudgingly, we drag ourselves over into the compliant pile. Hauling our stuff with us. We wipe our brow, let out a sigh and, just as we are poised to rest on our laurels God says,
What an invitation: follow me. But I just sat down. What about my bags! My pillow. My clothes, my toothbrush, my computer, my iPhone, my…
Here, we travel light.
Run, shoot, pass, dribble, score. Repeat and repeat, calling on the same muscles to do all the work. Do the same the next day, next practice, next game. It seems a reasonable plan for training and improvement. Just keep doing it until we get it right, right?
Well, no. Because each movement is not just the responsibility of one muscle. Oh, there is one muscle in charge; we call that the prime mover. That’s the muscle the gets strengthened when we do it over and over. But there are other team members here. There are the agonists, the helping muscles: smaller role but their additive effect is essential. Then there is the antagonist, the opposing muscle: whose job it is to slow or stop the motion. Finally, there are the stabilizers: the muscles that keep the movement aligned.
So, when we repeat and repeat, the strong get stronger but the weak get weaker. They become less and less able to play their role and balance the movement. This does not stem from an internal ranking system or superiority of performance. They are designed this way with different roles, different contributions, some larger, some smaller, some one direction, some another. There’s a division of labor, by design. We get into trouble when we favor one over the other. Neglect the weak and the strong suffer.
Amazing how even our bodies are designed for community. Favoritism is discouraged. Honoring each for its contribution based on its giftedness is wise. And the weakest and smallest need special attention and special protection. Neglecting these, letting the prime mover rule the roost and demand all the attention disrupts the balance. It’s a recipe for injury for the body.
When small roles are considered unimportant and small contributors considered insignificant, we deny our design. We fall into patterns of disparity, the strong feeling superior, the weak feeling dismissed. Closing this gap is essential for health. Not to bring each muscle into equal strength – that would be disaster for movement. Not to bring each muscle into equal leadership – that would freeze us in our tracks. Just to offer each its due. To train each up into its full potential and to activate it in the way that exerts just the right force at just-right speed in just-right direction with just-right balance, without deviating from the appointed pattern.
Only community can accomplish this. Honored community which recognizes the contribution of each in its proper proportion, according to its own design. We deny this at our own peril.
How cool of God to offer us this lesson in our bodies so we can live it out in His.
I am grateful for gravity. It keeps all the things in place on my desk so I don’t have to go plucking them out of the air like the astronauts on the space station. This is convenient. A great design.
The earth’s gravity is my friend for other reasons. It pulls me with a very specific force (9.8 meters/sec 2) directly toward the center of the earth. It holds me here. And a very physical-mathematical hold it is, that lasso around my center of gravity that pulls me directly downward.
But gravity shows no mercy. If I tip, ever so much, lean ever so slightly, it seizes its advantage and pulls me that way. If I hoist something overhead that’s a bit more than I can manage, it causes me to sway backward accentuating the pull. Centered and strong at the core is the only safe place. The place of balance, favoring neither right nor left, front nor back, is the one that holds us steady and upright.
Wouldn’t you know that right there, standing with torso erect, abdominals drawn in, shoulders and hips squared right and left, the force of gravity and I are working together. In fact, it insists I stay that way. What did Einstein suppose? “An object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Sometimes, I wonder how motion happens at all.
But most of us these days have pretty poor posture. Have you noticed how many people are hunched over out there? Either bent over by the weight they bear, physically or emotionally, or leaning to one side or the other, courtesy of children, politics, or the winds of the day that are blowing their way. I am grateful for the words of James when I picture our predicament:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. ~ James 1:2-8
Move, we must. But leaning sets us up for a fall. Gravity makes sure of this. Getting our balance requires dedicated attention to all sides of ourselves: right and left, front and back, in and out. The parts we can see and those we can’t. Sometimes it requires a friend to set us upright or put us back on track. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of comparing. Isn’t it cool that God gave us two of most of our body parts so we can compare them and attend to bringing things level?
It just takes some tuning in to how we feel. For me that means, lifting with both hands, then with each one separately to compare. Jumping from both feet, then hopping on one, then the other. The body tells me – it’s very honest – which side needs more attention. If I listen well, I comply.
Yep, motion is formational for me just as gravity has been formational for our earth. I just have to watch the deep bending and the over-extending. Bending over backwards or crouching in hiding, neither is much good to this earthly mission. But moving in perfect balance, that seems more like God’s way. He just gave us gravity so we’d know when we were a little off center.
And to keep the coffee in my cup and the cup on my desk. God’s full of great ideas!